How to Join the Civil Service

how to become a civil servant

The UK Civil Service forms the backbone of the British Government. It is vital that this functions correctly in order provide the services and facilities that many of us take for granted on a daily basis. To be able to provide the diverse services, the Civil Service employs thousands of people in various roles from refuse collection operatives, social service workers, and border officials and many more! Each of these play a vital role in the organisation’s success.

When applying to join the Civil Service, you will have to pass a stringent and tough selection process. The selection process is built around a set criteria known as the ‘Civil Service Success Profiles’. To have any chance of success you will have to be able to demonstrate an excellent knowledge of these profiles.

In this blog, we’ll be taking a detailed look at these profiles and their sub-elements and how you can use these during your application to enhance your chance of success.

What are the Civil Service Success Profiles?

When you apply to join the Civil Service, you will be assessed against a set criteria which is relevant to the role you are applying for. This set criteria are called the Civil Service Success Profiles. This replaced the previous competency framework used by the Civil Service. The previous competency framework assessed all candidates for all roles on the same set of competencies, which was deemed ineffective as not all of the competencies were relevant to the role being applied for. With the Civil Success Profiles candidates are only assessed on the profiles which are relevant to the role being applied for.

Ability – This is used to assess a candidate’s performance in a number of different ways such as online assessment tests, ie numerical, verbal, and situational judgement tests. The number of tests you will face will be dependent on the role being applied for. If the role is of a technical nature you may have to undertake further tests to test your technical job-related ability.

Technical – The candidate will have to display specific job-related knowledge and skills and divulge any relevant and required qualifications.

Experience – Experience gained through previous roles related to the role you are applying for.

Strengths – These are based on what we do on a regular basis, what we excel at and how they motivate us. These are not so much based on how you perform at work, but more so what you enjoy doing. This ensures that the role is as much a good fit for the candidate as well as the employer. The thinking is that if the role is matched to something you enjoy you will more likely perform to an exceptional standard. In total there are 36 strengths that you can be assessed against, and are listed in what is known as the Civil Service Strengths Dictionary. You will only be assessed against the strengths which are deemed as a requirement for the role.

Behaviours – In total, there are nine behaviours that form the basis of all Civil Service job roles. In order to perform to a high standard, you should learn and understand the behaviours prior to attending your interview. It is worth noting that on the job description for the role it is often stated which behaviours you will be assessed against during the selection process. The nine behaviours are:

  • Seeing the Bigger Picture
  • Changing and Improving
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Leadership
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Working Together
  • Developing Self and Others
  • Managing a Quality Service
  • Delivering at Pace

It is also worth noting that each behaviour is mapped to a number of strengths which form the ‘Civil Service Strengths Dictionary’. In total there are 36 strengths and any number of these can be linked to a behaviour. For example, the ‘Making Effective Decisions’ behaviour is linked to the strengths; Analytical, Decisive, Preventer and Problem solver.

The Civil Service Selection Process

The selection process will slightly differ between job roles but in general will follow the same pattern. Some technical or senior positions may require further stages, but the majority of roles will follow the format below:

Online Application – The initial stage of the selection process to join the civil service will require you to apply for role on the Civil Service jobs portal and fill out some basic information. This information will then be processed and your application will be checked for eligibility.

Online Aptitude Tests – If you successfully navigate the initial stage, you will be invited to take a number of standard tests. These are the Civil Service Verbal Test (CSVT), Civil Service Numerical Test (CSNT) and a Situational Judgement Test (CSJT). The number of these tests you will face will depend on the requirements of the role. But you should expect to take at least two of the tests. You may also have to take further job-related tests which are specifically required for the role being applied for. It is worth noting that the tests will be taken at different times, and if you have not passed the previous test, you will not be invited to undergo the next test.

Full Application Including CV and Personal Statement – If you successfully pass all of the aptitude tests, you will be invited to submit your full application which will include a CV and personal statement. The CV which you submit should be tailored for the role you are applying for. In regards to the personal statement you will be asked to base this on a specific behaviour which is applicable to the role being applied for. The candidate pack will tell you which behaviour this will be. The format for this will ask you to provide an example of where you have demonstrated the specific behaviour. For example, you may be asked. “Tell me of a time when you had to make an effective but difficult decision”. Your task will be to describe a time when you were in this position.

Online Interview – The next stage will be to attend an online interview. In recent times this has become a regular occurrence due to the pandemic and also the flexibility it offers employers and candidates. During the interview you will be asked a number of behavioural and strength-based questions. These will be based around the behaviours you are being assessed upon throughout the selection process.

Second/Final Interview – As part of the selection process, you may also be asked to attend a second or final interview, in many cases this is standard process, but it could also be because there are a number of strong candidates. This may again be online, or the recruitment team may ask you to attend a face-to-face interview. Whichever the format the structure will be similar with further behaviour/strengths questions. Please note the recruitment team may want to re-visit areas from your first interview, so be prepared for this and ensure your answers are consistant.

How to join the civil service

Want more advice to pass the Civil Service selection process? 

If you’re looking for further advice on how to join the Civil Service, then we’ve got the perfect resource for you! Check out our brand new How to become a Civil Servant online resources for a comprehensive overview of everything needed to pass the selection process for any Civil Service job. Here is what you can expect from our online resource:

  • The Civil Service Success Profiles fully explained;
  • Each behaviour broken down and explained;
  • Each of the strengths mapped to the behaviours;
  • Sample CV and personal statement;
  • Practice questions for all the online tests;
  • Identify which behaviour the interview questions are assessing;
  • Sample answers to all questions and explanations how they match the strengths and behaviours;
  • How to prepare yourself for online interviews.
join the civil service